Thursday, July 31, 2008

Prince George 2009: The dawning of the age of electric transport

Prince George British Columbia has always been the center for transportation and innovative ideas in British Columbia. Way back in BC History, people in Prince George and area have needed to be innovative and resourceful to survive. Pictures taken of the community in the early days (up to around the 1940’s and 50’s) do not show much use of the conventional vehicles that we are used to. Back then, it did not make much sense to trade in the horse and buggy for one of those slow, loud horseless carriages that Mr. Ford was building back east… Fast forward to the early days of the new millennium in British Columbia and see the high fuel prices and the struggle in British Columbia to keep the cars fueled up so you can make money to buy more fuel. We need an alternative and Prince George is the place to begin the idea in our province.

In 2007 several large centers across Canada hosted “Electric Day” (E-Day), an event to celebrate the alternative of Electric Transport in these days of extreme out of control world oil prices. According to mainstream news sources, the events were a huge success in those communities. The struggle to keep the tank filled is a world wide problem today and everyone is looking for a solution. Electric days celebrate devices and vehicles designed to operate on electricity only.

Here in Prince George, many of us own electric mobility aids due to an injury or disease that robs us of some mobility. Quite a few of us ride these to go about our business around town. There are estimates of over 3500 electric mobility devices in Prince George. Those devices are perfect in town vehicles. No license or helmet required, slow but steady. You ride past the gas stations with a smile on your face and you keep your cash for the store. It may take 20 minutes to get from the 1200 block on 20th Ave. to Pine Center Mall but the ride is pleasant in the summer and full of great views. Always pack that camera you splurged on as you passed the gas station! Most medium to large mobility aids can travel 15 to 35 Km’s before needing a recharge & some can travel as fast as 25 kph! Recharges cost about 4 cents from dead flat (unless you live in an accessible apartment where the electricity is included in the rent).

While riding around the city on one of these, a certain rider was dreaming of a day when everyone would be using electric in some form or other. Prince George area is built for accessibility (and many structures as well). With an electric device, many natural accessible areas exist. Over 100 KM of nature trail area was developed in the Prince George area and over 40% of that is completely (naturally) accessible by electric mobility aid.

“Why could we not do this E-Day in Prince George” he wondered. The rider realized that an organized force of people with the same idea would be needed to pull something like this off. To that end he investigated and contacted the former President of the PG Scooter club (Dead society for riders of Mobility aids) and suggested the idea of reforming the group. Since September 2007, Ken Biron and John Neison have collaborated on developing a society for those lucky enough to be afflicted with a mobility robbing condition and forced to ride these things.

Ken is a long time rider due to mobility problems caused by Multiple Sclerosis and was noticing an increase in the number of mobility devices being used every year. He is also the Facilitator for the MS Support Group and Assistive Technology Consultant for Employment Action. John is involved in many activities that the city manages on the issues of disability; he also rides due to a mobility problem. Ken and John agreed to re-form the scooter club to show people that this alternate form of transport is not something to be hidden. The club was renamed the “Prince George Power Mobility Club” (PGPMC) and is planning to implement an annual event of the future of personal electric transport as a way of introducing themselves to you. Their vision is “To assist and support people with Power Mobility Devices”. They don’t focus on “Why” we ride, just that there are fun, safe ways to ride.

Ken and John are supported by Nancy, John’s wife and fellow mobility rider. The 3 of them met unofficially a few times in the board room of 490 Quebec over the winter and spring of 2007/08 to discuss the future of the club. They plan on creating a Non-Profit society based on these values. In June of 2008 it was decided that PGPMC would need to promote a huge media event to get the attention of mobility riders and attract a membership. The EDay event was the perfect vehicle for that plan. At the Initial meeting which was attended by 6 people in the boardroom, PGPMC elected several official positions. John became the President and Ken is the Vice. A secretary was elected and there is now a treasurer. It was discussed about us supporting EDay in Prince George and using that for a membership drive.

After the meeting Ken, John and Nancy sat with a very receptive Pat Bell, MP and discussed the concept of “Electric Day” and how it could be held in Prince George. He offered his parties’ support and offered to talk to his contacts about it. A few days later Shirley Bond, MLA and Deputy Minister for the Province of BC called John on the telephone and offered the province’s support in this venture. Shirley said that Gordon Campbell (BC Premiere) was eager to support the idea in Prince George.

Electric Day #1 is being planed for the Multiplex in June of 2009. All forms of electric transport will be featured. Tricked out Mobility aids, electric bicycles, Electric motorbikes, cars, trucks, forklifts, busses and all sorts of other environmentally friendly electric travel modes will be featured. Chevy and Toyota plan on unveiling the first true electric vehicles in 2009 as well and it is hoped that one or more will be featured there.

brought to you by Employment Action, 1268 5th Ave PG. If you have physical barriers and would like to return to gainful employment, please contact our professional staff of employment counselors. Together we will explore your options and try to find the perfect career for you. 250-564-8044 or toll free at 1-866-409-8044. Thanks for reading!.
As well, this event was featured in the Prince George Citizen on the 3rd of July, local downtown printed news source. Thank you Prince George Citizen & Scott Stanfield; I am sure we will talking to you again someday

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